Young women met in Johannesburg for two days last week in the build-up to World AIDS Day. Top of the agenda is how to prevent being infected with HIV and how to contribute towards ending AIDS by 2030.

They also discussed issues of substance and drug abuse as well as gender based violence. A number of resolutions we made including demanding access to basic health services, specifically for the youth.

“We need to work with perpetrators and figure out reasoning behind their previous action. This applies to those perpetrators who have turned their lives around. We need to launch a new condom campaign. We want a condom that’s accessible, not only in clinics because that is not where young people are found. Young people are in schools, varsities, in the streets, shebeens that is where condoms need to be,” says Sibulele Sibaca from the Colour My HIV movement.

The United States US government funded the DREAMS project aimed at reducing the HIV infections among adolescent girls and young women in 10 sub-Saharan countries.

US Embassy in SA’s Jessye Lapenn says, “We put in last year alone seven billion rand to address the broader epidemic, so today and now we are talking about the experience of SA girls but this is an epidemic that doesn’t discriminate.”

Eighteen-year-old Tinswalo Maimele from Vosloorus feels lucky to have been a DREAMS ambassador for two years now.

“It has changed my life completely differently because it helped me to have a voice as a young woman, to have an open mind and talk about issues that affect us as young people.  I talk to my peers about different issues, solutions, how we can implement it in our communities and how we can help other women to be like us,” says Maimele.

Meanwhile Deputy President David Mabuza says he is encouraged by young women who are determined to lead the battle against HIV.

“Every generation has its own mission, ours as young people then, our mission was to liberate the country and we fought with all determination. That is why we are free and I can see today that your mission is to fight the scourge of HIV/AIDS, drug abuse, is to fight all the ills that are attacking young people and I’m happy that you’ve decided to stand up,” says Mabuza.

Mabuza criticised older men in relationships with young girls. He also lashed out at abusive men saying it’s unacceptable that so many young women die at the hands of men who claim to love them.

“This is a bad phenomenon. An old man sleeping with a young child. A child that is supposed to be your daughter, how do you feel? Do you love your daughter? If you love your daughter can you accept another man to sleep with your daughter? No. Why then do you sleep with another man’s daughter? No is no. You’ve got the right to say I love you, you’ve got a right to say I don’t love you anymore, and if you say I don’t love you anymore that should not be a death sentence. Men must change,” says Mabuza

Mabuza has committed to have the Colour My HIV movement launched across the country to get more young women empowered to fight HIV.